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FOX Medical Team

Therapy helps singer find voice

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ATLANTA -

We've all had points when our voices seem to give out. Sometimes because we've been shouting too much, other times it's because of an infection like laryngitis. For an aspiring Atlanta singer, the problem was so serious that he nearly had to give up performing.

Before Gil Eplan-Frankel and his a cappella group at the Paideia School sing, they warm up. Even when they're just practicing, it's where the 18-year old high school senior feels most alive.

"It's a beautiful thing and I love to perform. I love to sing and lose myself in the music," Eplan-Frankel.

In the summer of 2011, Gil was singing a lot.

"I was in a show and then another show and then another show," Eplan-Frankel said. "And singing stuff that was out of my range a little bit, getting up there a little bit."

That's when it hit him: he was losing his voice;  it hurt to sing.

"I couldn't do the one thing that I love. I couldn't even sing in the car, which is the best," he said.

Gil ended up at Emory Midtown Hospital, working with Emory Voice Center speech-language pathologist Marina Gilman.

"You know a lot of folks come in and they've never really think about their voice except all of a sudden it's not working for them," said Gilman.

Marina says Gil was physically fine, but vocally exhausted.
   
"Sometimes people come in…and their vocal folds are perfectly normal, but then they're squeezing so much. So it's really a matter of how they're using their voice," said Gilman.

Dr. Michael Johns, Director of the Emory Voice Center, says they see a lot of  young performers like Gil with "vocal trauma," from pushing their vocal cords too hard.
    
"They are in a situation where they can tax themselves incredibly vocal.  Voice is not something that we think about as a physical task, but when we generate sound, it's a physical task," Johns said.

Gil also had acid reflux, which they're treating. He needed Marina to work with him and show him how to sing without creating so much tension in his voice.
 
"But it was a struggle and I honestly wasn't sure I was going to recover and it was really scary at times. I learned not to take things for granted. And also, I learned how to take care of myself," Eplan-Frankel.

It was a hard lesson, but it brought Gil back to this thing he loves.

"There's nothing like it in the world, you can't express yourself any other way than you can with music, and singing and instruments," Eplan-Frankel said.

Even those who can't sing can also experience hoarseness after an upper respiratory infection, or shouting in a noisy environment.

If you're still hoarse after a couple of weeks, see an ear, nose and throat specialist to find out what's going on.

To read more about your voice, and how to keep it healthy, check out  
http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/aboutVoice.cfm

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